Carrying On A Legacy

Read about Chris’s experience weatherizing on MLK Day:

Chris installing CFL bulbs
Chris installing CFL bulbs

From January 17th-19th I had the pleasure of serving the Billings and Red Lodge communities with my fellow Energy Corps members.  During the MLK Day event, we collectively “weatherized” approximately 30 homes, equipping them with installations and fixtures that would help keep their homes warmer over the unforgiving Montana winter. Some of the services we provided were door sweeps/linings to block any draft coming through doors, plastic coverings on windows to also eliminate draft, CFL light bulbs, water heater blankets, digital thermostats, and water aerators for kitchen/bathroom sinks. The biggest need for most of the families I visited was door insulation. In some homes, there was a sizable gap between the door bottom and floor, allowing a significant amount of air to enter the home. I know from my apartment, there is the tiniest of a slit from my bedroom window and the window frame. Even that slight gap chills my room a surprising amount. In comparison to the majority of the served homeowners, their much larger inch long gap cooled the small home a great deal.  Not only is this a problem for the daily life of the residents, who were by majority single elderly women, but financially the constant loss of heat costs money—money that is best kept in their pockets, not invested into ever increasing the thermostat temperature. You can imagine the smiles on these women’s faces when a trio of also constantly smiling 20-something year olds enters their homes preparing to fix their problems, for free.

Members in Red Lodge at the end of the event

The service was not one-sided, however. Even though they were the ones equipped with a masterly installed state-of-the-art weatherized system, I left Billings/Red Lodge with more than I had before. What is valuable about service is the opportunity to unselfishly serve others in one’s community.  People commonly value service because of the personal feel-good experience that often is a byproduct of their work. That the work itself instills a sense of goodness and accomplishment in one’s mind—what ultimately makes one happy about one’s self-worth. I do not see this as valuable, however, or at least this is not why I value service. When you serve in order to serve yourself, I believe you taint the true value of service: the value of serving others for their benefit, not yours. Yes we installed door/window insulations to warm homes, light bulbs, aerators to help them save a few bucks on their utility bills, but I believe our greatest service was us spending genuine quality time with them. Once we would finish giving them our pitch for services we could provide, it was not too surprising for them to begin talking about their families and loved ones, updating us on anything/everything taking place in their lives. It was a genuine treat to experience and the experience gifted me a perspective that I will cherish and use to relate to my elderly loved ones.

I can’t think of a better way to spend MLK day. To spend the holiday honoring the legacy of a legendary man who preached the value of community and the importance of caring for one’s neighbor regardless of age/color/gender. It really was my honor and pleasure serving those in need and I am a better person for it.

Chris E.Christopher Essman graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Political Science. He also minored in Philosophy, Leadership Studies, and Poverty and Social Justice. His professional experience includes a year-long internship at Elon’s Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, a summer internship at Caritas of Austin, and several years as COO at his local startup landscaping business. Chris serves as the Energy Conservation and Sustainability Educator for the City of Missoula. His project work includes municipal and community greenhouse gas accounting and reporting, collaboration with Climate Smart Missoula, energy and utility tracking, benchmarking and reporting, as well as researching and presenting policy considerations.

Getting Ready for Weatherization
Tending a Small Section of Garden

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